That's no typo in the title; this latest Agatha Raisin mystery by M. C. Beaton is really called "Hiss [with two s] and Hers". And appropriately, too, because the reader (and Agatha as well as all the other characters) does encounter quite a few snakes in this story. Adders, to be precise.
It is the 23rd adventure in the series - have I really read them all? Yes, I'm afraid I have - and I also have the entire collection on my book shelf. My mother-in-law got me started on "Agatha Raisin" when, years ago, she sent me the first three books as paper backs in one of her wonderful parcels she always sends me from England for my birthday and Christmas.
This time, Agatha is in love (in her usual obsessive way) with the handsome village gardener. George is a favourite with all the Carsely ladies, it seems, and Agatha is the only one who is blind to his various affairs - not because she is stupid, but because she simply does not want to see. For his sake, she even organizes (and pays for!) a charity ball, dreaming of herself swirling across the dance floor in George's arms. Dressed up to the nines, almost everyone in the village turns up - minus George, who is nowhere to be seen.
When Agatha goes looking for him, she is shocked to find him murdered - and that's just the first of several murders (and a few attempted murders thrown in for good measure).
In her usual blunt manner, Agatha soon is at the centre of the investigation, backed by her team of employees and friends, although some of them have their own agenda.
We meet her ex-husband again, as well as her friends Sir Charles Fraith (my personal favourite - I know someone in real life who is exactly like him!), Bill Wong, Roy Silver and Mrs. Bloxby. As usual, Agatha gets herself in danger and is urged more than once (by the police as well as her friends) to let go - something that is impossible for our Agatha.
M. C. Beaton has once again produced a fast-paced mystery with (at least to me!) a solution to the puzzle that is not obvious from the start. She portrays the characters in quickly drawn sketches, and yet they are well enough imaginable. The village, the weather, the atmosphere - it's all there, without many words. At some point, we skip half a year in just one paragraph. Now, if one would try to stick to a timeline with all the Agatha Raisin mysteries, she would by now be somewhere around 80 years old (after 23 books, starting out as a woman in her mid-fifties, as the first book clearly states), but for some reason, that discrepancy does not bother me when it comes to this series.
Every now and then, Agatha says or thinks something that makes me either almost laugh out loud, or nod in agreement, or think "hey! she's right!". M. C. Beaton celebrated her 70th birthday last year. I do hope she will be just like her heroine, not sticking to any realistic timeline, and stay around for many more adventures.